I have been reading about this part ahead of starting it formally as shutter speed has been one of my least used modes. I have always been apprehensive of it and avoided it partly due to my lack of understanding of it and partly due to the complications that come along with it, especially since most of my work is in the forests where I spend maximum time and losing moments due to experimentation is not something that I can risk. Ever since the lockdown in March, I have been focusing on birds as a subject and since my first assignment on them, I have been carrying this on as a project. Part III offers me with an opportunity to try something different with the same theme and many factors have been responsible to guide me towards this direction.
At the end of Assignment One, my tutor Andrea suggested me to look at the Ravens series by Masahisa Fukase, which triggered some ideas into my mind – ravens are usually considered ominous, inauspicious, ugly or just plain vermin in many cultures including mine. I love them and they are one of the most intelligent and clever birds. To have documented them and raise them to an exalted level was a sign for me and that the recommendation of this came at a time when I was contemplating to do something on similar lines with the common Pigeon.
I first started observing pigeons when I moved to my studio in 2009. In a vertical high rise living area, pigeons are commonly found. I began feeding them in my two little balconies and soon enough I was feeding hundreds of them everyday. My balcony has now been a maternity hospital for over a decade now. Despite them being treated by people as agents of diseases and vermin, I always believe that the only vermin on this planet is humans. Despite them not getting as much importance as other birds might receive due to them being more beautiful, I have always found them to have a very natural grace. Despite being highly territorial and picking up fights all the time, they move with such grace that It is fascinating to observe them for hours at end. Over the years I have studied them, observed them, taken pictures of their eggs, babies, etc. but never really thought about doing anything with it.
Coming to the present, everyday for the past three months now, I have been observing them with a fresh eye again. On one such day it had rained heavily just before the golden hour and the light post the rains was just magical. As I stood on my terrace, I noticed them fighting and picking over one another in order to get the grains. Even in the war mode, they looked absolutely beautiful and graceful. It was like watching a fight in slow motion – so fascinating it was to watch these birds in that magical moment and that is when I decided that ordinary is just a mind thing – something that seems so when we don’t look hard enough. I photographed them for a long time that day and the images that I got inspired me to make what is considered ordinary to look extraordinary and I thought that was a good enough challenge to give myself with a subject that is considered ordinary and often ignored.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”(Erwitt, E.)
I am quite surprised at myself that I never got the motivation to do this project earlier even though their behaviour is something that I have been observing first hand for over a decade now. It was while I was watching Quarantine Conversations: David Alan Harvey and Martin Parr, again referred by my tutor Andrea, where David asks Martin parr about his numerous photo-books and Parr replies that he doesn’t think too much about it – he just goes ahead and does it, and I quite liked his approach, kicking myself and deciding not to overthink and just go for it.
The last reason that I want to undertake this as my final theme is that birds in flight is a difficult subject to master. I have penned this in my initial reflections during Assignment One with a promise to self that this is something that I want to learn and practice to add to my skill set. And to take it up as the final assignment is reason enough that I bloody well do a good job of it. So it’s a challenge for me to understand and practice shutter priority mode as much as I can in order to be able to present a decent final project. So here I am, on the verge of my third assignment and grateful to Andrea for providing the great references that triggered this thought process. I am excited to record images that will add to this project that I want to publish in a photo book eventually.
“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary.”(Bailey, D.)
With the quote above (it took me ten years!) and the challenges that I have set up for myself, I do hope that I can deliver what I have said and I set upon this part of the coursework with excitement and determination.